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Mechanization, Succession and Farm Safety are Themes at Lake Erie Grape Grower Conference


By Jodi Creasap Gee

Lake Erie Regional Grape Program's Conference
The Lake Erie Regional Grape Program's 2011 Grape Grower Conference was held on March 17

The 2011 Lake Erie Regional Grape Program (LERGP) Grape Grower Conference, which drew more than 200 growers, industry representatives, extension associates and faculty, prepared the Lake Erie grape and wine industry for the 2011 growing season with talks on vineyard mechanization, business succession planning and farm safety.

Presenters from Cornell University, Penn State University, Ag Choice, National Grape Cooperative, and Soil and Water Conservation Services provided the scientific program, complemented with a trade show that included vendors from ADM Crop Risk Services to Z&M Ag & Turf.

Andy Muza, extension educator with Penn State Cooperative Extension, opened the plenary session with a discussion of key safety topics for the farm, including the use of power take off (PTO) guards and roll-over protective structures (ROPS) for tractors.

Farm business management and succession planning had been identified as key topics by the LERGP Advisory Committee—comprised of growers and other industry members—which assisted the LERGP team in identifying and developing programming and topics for the meeting. LERGP extension educator Kevin Martin and Scott Owens of AgChoice Farm Credit delivered talks on "Succession Planning" and "Farming as a Business," respectively, and teamed up to lead a discussion during the afternoon on business management.

Terry Bates, director of the Cornell Lake Erie Research and Extension Laboratory, introduced sensor technologies for more efficient vineyard management. Recent advances include technologies that use berry imaging software to estimate crop size, on-the-fly yield monitors, and GPS-based vine size monitors. Bates also led an interactive nutrition management discussion, dispelling myths on grapevine nutritional needs and managing soil nutrition.

Cornell professor of entomology Greg Loeb ended the first portion of the plenary session by introducing new invasive insect species, specifically the brown marmorated stink bug and spotted wing drosophila (fruit fly). Both are expected to arrive in New York vineyards in the coming growing seasons, and growers were alerted to be aware of these pests and how to manage infestations.

The afternoon's breakout sessions, where smaller groups met for discussion, catered to a wide array of interests, including:estate, retirement and succession planning; disease management and sprayer modifications; pesticide storage and loading facilities; vineyard nutrition; and sustainable viticulture.

Mark Amidon, field representative for National Grape Cooperative and president of the Lake Erie Region Awards Committee, presented the Don Crowe Memorial Grape Industry Person of the Year Awards for 2010 and 2011 to Robert Mazza and Carl Vilardo Jr., respectively, for their contributions to the Lake Erie region grape and wine industries. Amidon also presented the LERGP Special Recognition Award for 2011 to Trenholm Jordan for his service to the Lake Erie Region grape industry as the viticulture extension associate, including his work on vineyard mechanization and the Geneva Double Curtain trellising system.

Jodi Creasap Gee is viticulture extension educator with the Lake Erie Regional Grape Program, a joint program of Cornell and Pennsylvania State University.